Sixteen adolescent specific pathogen free cats were inoculated with the Petaluma strain of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and two cats were then necropsied at each of 5, 10, 21, 28, 42, 56, 70, and 84 day time points following infection. Lymphadenopathy gradually increased starting at Day 10 and persisted for the duration. Gross clinical signs of fever, mild to severe malaise, anorexia, diarrhea, dehydration, and generalized soreness appeared around Day 42, peaked at Day 56, and disappeared by Days 70-84 post-infection. Leukopenia, associated initially with a mild lymphopenia and later by both a mild lymphopenia and a severe neutropenia, appeared 14-28 days following infection, troughed at Day 56, and persisted thereafter. The CD4+:CD8+ T cell ratio started to decrease around Day 28, reaching a nadir at Days 56-70. This decrease was due to a decline in the absolute numbers and percentage of CD4+ T cells and an increase in the percentage of CD8+ T cells. Significant histopathologic lesions included myeloid hyperplasia between Days 56-70 post-infection; thymitis with cortical involution and follicular hyperplasia starting at Day 42; lymphoid hyperplasia of peripheral and mesenteric nodes, spleen and tonsils beginning around Day 42; typhlitis most evident from Day 56 onward, and an interstitial nephritis and pneumonitis that was most intense after Day 42. Virus was isolated from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) beginning 2 weeks post-infection, and plasma viremia appeared 1 week later. Plasma and PBMC-associated viremia peaked at 42-56 days following infection and decreased abruptly thereafter. Proviral DNA was detectable as early as 5 days after infection in blood leukocytes and after 10 days in other organs. The central nervous system, lungs, thymus, tonsils and mesenteric lymph nodes were the earliest sites of virus localization. Antibodies to the FIV capsid protein appeared 14 days following infection and reached peak levels by Days 42-56. Abnormalities occurring during the primary stage of FIV infection were consistent with those described for acute simian and human immunodeficiency virus-induced disease.
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